To appeal to the entire black-tie audience, two guests of honor have agreed to be on hand for next month's presentation of Service to America Medals to top U.S. government officials: White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry.
Card is chief of staff to President Bush. He's perhaps not as well known as McGarry (played by Emmy-winning actor John Spencer), chief of staff to President Josiah Bartlet in the prime-time TV series, "The West Wing."
Spencer once recalled being introduced to President Clinton's former White House chief of staff, Leon Panetta, "who gave me the biggest compliment. He said, 'Any government would be lucky with Leo as chief of staff.'"
Welcome aboard, Leo.
MINT A QUARTER
Now that Congress has passed a bill adding the federal city of Washington, D.C., to the Quarter Dollar Program commemorating the 50 U.S. states (is Walla Walla next?), let's assist the secretary of Treasury in selecting an appropriate design to appear on the commemorative side of the coin.
Send all suggestions, the more creative the better, to this column and we'll be sure to forward them to Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill.
Reader Steven Zell, a senior engineer at TRC Environmental Corp. in Windsor, Conn., gets things started: "I would suggest that the reverse (tails) side depict the United States Capitol building, which is a true symbol of Washington, D.C., and unlikely to offend either political party."
Name of the petition being circulated to restrain celebrities (movie & TV stars, pop & rock stars, producers, directors, etc.) from capitalizing on their celebrityhood to sound off on whatever issue du jour comes rolling along to which they must bear witness: The HUSH (Help Us Silence Hollywood) Petition.
The terrorist threat against this country has made immigration reform "a matter of life and death," and cuts in both permanent and temporary immigration would contribute significantly to improved security by permitting more efficient management and by denying terrorists cover.
"We fail to act at our peril," warns Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, in a homeland-security report titled "Safety in (Lower) Numbers."
Since Sept. 11, he says, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has been searching for more than 300,000 foreigners in this country "who have absconded after being ordered deported, and these names are being entered into the FBI's national crime database - though only about 900 have so far been located."
In the meantime, the State Department is requiring more intensive examination of visa applications, particularly by young men from Muslim countries. Will that work?
"(T)argeting Muslim-majority countries wouldn't successfully screen out terrorists," says Krikorian. "As it is, applicants from Middle Eastern countries formally listed as sponsors of terrorism - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria - have long faced a higher bar to entry. So instead, the Sept. 11 terrorists came from Muslim countries not on the official list of terrorist-sponsoring countries."
As the United States looks critically at Muslim-majority countries, it could likely see terrorists coming from non-Muslim countries with large and radicalized Muslim minorities, notably the Philippines, India, China and Russia.
The FBI in recent weeks warned of one such development with regard to Russian citizens - al Qaeda is said to have discussed hijacking a commercial airliner using Muslim extremists of non-Arabic appearance, specifically Chechen Muslims affiliated with al Qaeda already present in the United States.
Until the United States can regroup and recharge, Krikorian calls for cutting immigration "across the board," although security implications from this country's large foreign-born population "cannot be wished away."
"In such a world," he says, "immigrant communities act as the sea within which, as Mao might have said, terrorists can swim like fish."
How does the ranking Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, chill out in these trying times of terrorism?
"Some folks may be surprised to find the senator is also a talented painter, but in these anxious times I take some comfort knowing there are decision makers with strong creative sides," says Fred Parker, chairman of a benefit auction to be held Oct. 25 at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, Va.
In 1974, Warner was instrumental in converting the World War II munitions plant along the Alexandria waterfront into the internationally renowned art center it is today. A resident of Old Town, the senator is donating what is described as a "stunning floral still life" to go to the highest bidder. The silent auction will feature more than 100 such works of art donated by the Torpedo Factory's resident artists.
While Sen. John W. Warner paints, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch writes his confession.
One of the better-known legislators in America, the Utah Republican has just penned "Square Peg: Confessions of a Citizen Senator" (Basic Books, $25), due in bookstores next month.
The senator describes his "personal" reflection as part essay on how politics should be practiced and part memoir of how he has tried to embody various principles during his tenure in the Senate, the only public office he has held.
He says the inspiration to write such a book came after a "harrowing" few moments at the Utah Republican Convention in 2000, when he had to face a hostile crowd, win them over in only a few minutes, then go on to secure the election.
"There was no way to explain what I had learned about being a senator, about campaigning, legislating and politics in just a few minutes," he says.
Hatch says he will provide a behind-the-scenes look at what really transpired during some of the more notorious congressional debates, including the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and the Clinton impeachment. He'll also explain his position in the debate over human cloning and stem-cell research.
For the record, Hatch recently flip-flopped on his position and is now in favor of stem-cell research.